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Crispy Okra Strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette & Creamy Celeriac Sauce for Food 'n Flix: Fried Green Tomatoes

Posted Aug 30 2011 6:01am

Since it had been a long time since I had seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes with Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker, I was pleased to find it the August movie pick for Food 'n Flix, created by my friend girlichef and hosted this month by Glennis of Cantbelieveweate's Weblog . It's an entertaining journey to the south, both present day and back in the 1920s, as well as a great reason to crave some good southern-style cooking.

Based on the book "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg, it is the story of unhappy housewife Evelyn, played by Bates. Evelyn meets the elderly Ninny (Tandy) while visiting her husband's aunt at a nursing home and strikes up a friendship with her. Soon Ninny tells Evelyn about the adventures of Idgie Threadgood, a eccentric young woman in 1920's Alabama. The stories of Idgie, Ruth and the other citizens of Whistle Stop inspire Evelyn to have the courage to make changes in her own life and build a strong bond between the two women.

Of course I wanted to make some fried green tomatoes--you can't watch this movie and not crave fried green tomatoes! I found a recipe for them in "Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine" by Bryant Terry. Terry accompanies his tomatoes with a Creamy Celeriac Sauce, inspired by remoulade and since I have not cooked with celeriac or celery root before, it sounded intriguing. Of course because I was looking for them, there were no green tomatoes anywhere to be found and I had to resort to Plan B. One thing that is always readily available at the farmers market and stores here is okra, another ingredient I rarely eat or cook with. Terry had a recipe for Crispy Okra Strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette and since I had already purchased the celery root, I decided to make the sauce and serve it to dip the okra in. The okra and green tomatoes both use Terry's simple Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Food, so it seemed like a good fit.

Bryant Terry says, "To be honest, there are only a few ways that I like to have okra, as I generally find it to be too slimy for my taste. This is one of them."

Crispy Okra Strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette
"Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry
(Yield 4 to 6 Servings)

Soundtrack: "Okra" by Olu Dara from In the World--From Natchez to New York

1 lb small to medium okra pods, ends cut off and quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Food (recipe below)
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
8 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
white pepper

In a large bowl, cover the okra strips with cold water, refrigerate, and soak for 15 minutes. Transfer the strips to a colander and rinse well under cold running water for 2 to 3 minutes. Put the strips back in the bowl, cover with water and refrigerate for an additional 15 minutes.

Transfer the okra back to the colander, rinse well under cold running water for 2 to 3 minutes, and let drain. With paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, pat the okra strips as much as possible to dry them (they will be slightly moist).

In a medium-size bowl, combine the okra strips with the Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Foods and toss them around to coat well.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the lime juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic, thyme, and salt in an upright blender. Blend while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Add white pepper to taste.

In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vinaigrette, just until it starts to bubble. Pour in the okra mixture and let it cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to brown (the pieces will start forming cakes). With a wooden spatula, turn over the pieces and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until browning and crisp.

Transfer the okra to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Then arrange on a platter and serve hot.

Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Foods
"Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry
(Yield: 2 cups)

Soundtrack: "Fried Neck Bones and Some Homefries" by Willie Bobo from Verve Unmixed 2

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Shake well to blend. That's it.

Be sure to store any remaining coating in the freezer, as it will go rancid otherwise.

Creamy Celeriac Sauce
"Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry
(Yield About 2 Cups)

Soundtrack: "Three Changes" by The Good, The Bad & The Queen from The Good, The Bad & The Queen

1/2 lb silken tofu
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
coarse sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup peeled and coarsely grated celery root (celeriac)

In an upright blender, combine the tofu, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, agave nectar, mustard, olive oil, paprika, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and blend until smooth. if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the sauce to a bowl and stir in the scallions and celery root.

*This will keep up to three days refrigerated.

Notes/Results: OK, here's the thing. There is a reason I don't eat and cook with a lot of okra. It's slimy. Really, really slimy. I am fine with a little of it in soups or gumbo but too much slimy doesn't really work for me. I was hoping what with all of the soaking, rinsing, soaking, rinsing, carefully patting dry, coating in flour, pan-frying, etc., it would lose a lot of its sliminess--and it did lose quite a bit of it. But at the end of the day, it is still a bit too much of a slimy texture for me to fully desire to eat it often. That being said--the coating is very crisp and tasty and cooked in the Lime-Thyme (excellent pairing of flavors by the way) Vinaigrette, the okra had lots of flavor. The Creamy Celeriac Sauce was also full of flavor and the leftovers will soon grace a piece of fish. So, I would make all three recipes again--vinaigrette, coating and sauce--I'll probably just use them on something other than okra (green tomatoes, green beans, asparagus?). Fun to try cooking some new things and although I didn't see any okra in the movie, a sufficiently Southern dish to represent. ;-)

And, if you are looking for some healthier soul food cooking, check out Vegan Soul Kitchen . There is plenty in this cookbook to love, whether you are a vegan or not, including fun music recommendations for all of the recipes and tips and info on vegan and soul-food ingredients.

Glennis will be rounding up the Food 'n Flix entries for Fried Green Tomatoes on her site, or check out the upcoming movie selections by going to the Food 'n Flix site here .

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